Monday, February 16, 2009

it can't last

I'm in Atlanta (well, Norcross) at a church meeting.  In a facility that blocks use of Facebook on their internet server.  I suppose this is just right, after I tried blaming my lack of blogging on Facebook.  I can take a message.

So while thinking about this week's lectionary and Transfiguration, my mind turned to the work of Christo and Jeanne-Claude.  Which led me on a delightful internet journey through their work, much of which is about concealing and revealing.  But also much more.  

Pondering the nature of our work in the church, I'm more and more drawn to the idea that our call is less to create things that will last and more to create things that are beautiful.

This temporary wall, built by Christo and Jeanne-Claude on a narrow street of Paris out of used oil barrels in 1962, lasted as a wall for a few hours.  Its statement against the Berlin Wall lasted longer.  I think it speaks pretty loudly today, as we continue to construct walls that interrupt our human living--think Hafrada wall built by Israel, or the border fence in our own community

But before I get distracted (ah, the possibilities of following links around the world!), what I meant to say is: perhaps we in the church need to get more enthusiastic about things that don't last.

I know that I've been guilty of the paralysis of over-analysis, wanting to create something perfect and lasting.  And God knows we're guilty of working too hard to save structures in the church.

"I think it takes much greater courage to create things to be gone than to create things that will remain," Christo said in response to critics of his work.  I'm thinking we all need a little more courage, and a little less of the self-centeredness that says, "The things I make should last forever."

I've been reading The World Without Us, a Christmas gift from my brother.  It details what would be likely to happen to the world if humans suddenly disappeared.  I was shocked by his descriptions of how quickly destruction would come to so many of the structures that deceive me as being strong and permanent.

Really, life is shockingly impermanent.  Colleen was telling me about how Heidegger wrote of the critical work of recognizing our mortality--that our being is toward death, and only when we recognize and accept this can we find real meaning and beauty.  (Did I get that right, Colleen?)

It seems to me that resurrection is a pretty beautiful way of getting ourselves out of any despair that might rise up (pun intended) from recognition of our frailty.  After all, we're connected to a God who is way bigger than we can understand.

So, encouraged as well by the collapse of financial markets that deceptively used terms like "securities," I suppose it's a good time to practice some investment in temporary things.  Or, in things we cannot own or control.   Invest in the millenium and plant sequoias, to steal a line from my favorite poet, Wendell Berry.


feminist_mom said...

i guess that naomic klein has a new book out but i have even started her last one --- a worthy goal for this year! A friend had it in the hospital where she has more time than she wants with her husband with pancreatic cancer... it is about companies and has a child onthe front.... as the word logo in the title or Logos maybe? the colored barrels are a reminder of the many barriers in our lives and world than are best taken down if they hurt others!

eshams said...

Hey, I just read your shout to Heidegger and to me; I'm delighted you're still thinking about mortality and being-toward-death. It'd be great to chat more about this--yes, being toward death, my own death, enables a particular kind of meaning, responsibility, and being with others whilst being in the world.
Now if I can just work out my project on natality, you'll be quoting me, too! ;O)